Scientific Data & Open Data in Taiwan

I just came back from a whirlwind trip to Taiwan and Japan.

In Taiwan I presented a the CODATA 2012 conference Open Data and Information for a Changing Planet.  CODATA (Committee on Data for Science and Technology) is an interdisciplinary Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which works to improve the quality, reliability, management and accessibility of data of importance to all fields of science and technology.  Canada has a Canadian National Committee for CODATA, based out of The National Research Council of Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) and the focus is scientific and research data and their preservation.  CODATA are the systems of systems folks, focusing on large data infrastructures.  The World Data Systems (WDS) folks also joined the conference and I had the good fortune of meeting some World Data Centre (WDS) directors. WDCs are a critical component in the sharing and preservation of scientific data and they undergo a rigorous certification process which many open data cities, provinces and federal initiatives might want to consider in their planning.

There were many great sessions at the conference, and the Mass Collaboration Data Project and Policies session is particularly relevant here.

  • Shun-ling Chen, a Harvard Law School PhD Candidate, provided a historical review of copyright and how mass collaboration projects are changing perspectives.
  • Puneet Kishor from the Creative Science Commons, a renowned CC0 advocate announced that he was willing to accept that scientists and scientific data need attribution, something I thought was quite obvious, but it seemed to be revelatory to him.  He also showcased his earth-base project which provides another way to search for scientific data.
  • Mikel Maron from GroundTruth Initiative discussed Open Street Map (OSM) in developing countries, particularly those who suffered a disaster.  He re-iterated that OSM is a community project not a crowd project, as crowd has negative connotations and he also discussed the issues related to place name politics whereby it was important to sometimes shut down the ability to change the names of contested places.  This brought tension to a consensus process like OSM.
  • Kerstin Lehnert, of Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA) discussed the integration of physical things and the need for uniform metadata for samples in order to do so.  We have the Internet of Things but the physical things that are sampled are not very well connected to the Internet.
  • Te-En Lin introduced a Citizen Science roadkill project in Taiwan.  It used FB as a means to get citizens engaged in photographing the road kill they encountered.  The project continuously had to refine its process as scale was an issue when identifying squashed critters, and so they taught people to put their shoe or other identifiable objects beside the creatures.  Eventually, people were going to corner stores and laminating their finds and sending them to him.  Hilarious.  He now has approximately 800 jarred samples which are all georeferenced and they will be using these data to develop remediation projects.
  • Mike Linksvayer, was provocative in stating that copyright makes us stupider and is stupid and that it should be abolished all together.  I argued that for traditional knowledge where people are seriously marginalized and where TK is exploited, copyright might be the only way to protect themselves.  We wound up having a late night jet lagged discussion in the hall way of the hotel and I think we understood each others perspectives more while still maintaining our stances.  He also introduced his submission Future of Copyright to the Future of Copyright contest for which is was classed in the top 10.

In addition to the conference I organized a meetup of local open data folks in Taiwan.  Open Data Taiwan graciously accepted the invitation and organized a dinner at a great Thai Restaurant and at a local cafe.

  • Weitze CHANG (aka Whisky), from the Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation, a social enterprise promoting critical thinking, answered the call and organized a local meetup.  He facilitated some great discussion on open data challenges in Taiwan and was very interested in the kind of work being done in Canada, the UK and Internationally.
  • Dennis Raylin Chen also from the Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation, did much on the ground coordination and participated as a citizen journalist at the CODATA 2012 conference.
  • Jack Townsend, who presented a project at the conference called also joined and shared some of his knowledge about the open data work he does on sustainable development.
  • 4-5 other fine open data folks also joined the meetup and I will post their contact when I have them.

We were also shown two very interesting open data projects.

Space is at a premium in Taiwan and there was much price gouging as no one really knew what things actually cost relative to each other as these data were never published.  The government tried to release them on a case by case basis until their system crashed as robots were endeavouring to scrape the data minutes after it was launched at midnight on a weeknight.  The government relented and released the entire dataset and this mashup is the result of that.

This visualization provides many views to how the Government of Taiwan spends.

I will update this post as my new friends in Taiwan send me more information.